Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Bike

Over at Hal's blog, he has a list of quotes, right at the top it lists one from Madeleine L'Engle. "The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you’ve been." Today, for a moment, I was eight again.
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I was out and about, in my little red truck, setting mosquito traps. It's fall now, and fall always makes me kind of thoughtful and sad. This year it is worse. I have a job that I love, and that I've been told that I'm very good at, but in all probability, I will not come back to next year. Every day is imbued with this sense of 'we will never pass this way again', and as hard as I try to reach a different conclusion, no matter what angle I'm looking at, the signs tell me that it is time to move on.
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So I was setting a trap. It was the end of the day. As I was walking back to my truck, an elderly lady rode by me on a bike. It was a very old bike, in remarkably good shape, though. The front tire was an old one with a wide whitewall. It was teal, with a headlight, and a rack on the back fender that you could strap things to. It had chrome fenders. I stopped dead in my tracks. I had received the exact same bike on my eighth birthday. It made me grin big. How I loved my bike! My dad worked long hours at the steel mill, and my mother did not drive, so a lot of memories circled around this bike. My brother and sisters and I explored the whole length of our very long road, dropping our bikes in the weeds at the side of the road and clambering down the bank to play in the creek that ran beside it. That bike was long summer days. That bike was freedom. That bike was adventure. When I was 12 or so, I fell off my bike damaging myself so badly that I still carry a little road gravel in my hip. It is such a remarkable scar that the Army dubbed it 'an identifying feature', and logged it on official Army records. Nearly 40 years later, it's still there, reminding me of the daredevil that I used to be, before I became cautious. I remember the laughing that proceeded the crash, and the "Watch this!" I remember what it was like to be bold, and unafraid to try new things, and I think about this generation of children, helmeted, padded, cautioned to within a very inch of their lives. I went home that day, crying, got myself bandaged up, and washed off. Birthday party invitations were few and far between in those days. My badly damaged self made it there anyways.
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I said to the old lady on the bike, "I have to tell you...that bike brings back some memories." This bike had been her daughter's bike. That little girl had received it when she was about eight, as well. The lady laughed when I squinted at her and said, "Wait...Mom? Is that you?!!!" A woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s stared at the bike, taking our own different trips back in time. as we stood along the road, chatting. I turned to get on with my work, she said, "You're Debby, right? That woman that writes in the paper?" And I told her that I was. She tells me that she loves to read my articles and looks for them on Saturdays. I thank her, and tell her that she might want to keep reading. I've got this dandy story about a teal bike rolling around in my head.
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Today, for a moment, it was my eighth birthday again. I got a bike. A shiny teal bike with chrome fenders, a headlight, and a rack that you could strap things to, or ride a sibling on. Today,
for a moment, I was eight years old again,
and summer stretched on before me as if it would never, ever end.

7 comments:

jeanie said...

Dang woman, you made me all teary!!! How beautiful and profound and what a moment to have had and captured so well.

Thank you.

steviewren said...

Great memory Debby! I loved my bike too. I've never been very athletic or coordinated. Riding the bike gave me such a sense of freedom from my ungainly body. I loved to fly down the hill no hands. I still love to get on a bike and fly away.

Redlefty said...

Beautiful, debby. Thank you for sharing that.

And it's much more uplifting than that line from the Eagles song "Get Over It":

"I'd like to find my inner child and kick its little ass..."

See? Yours is so much more positive!

Pencil Writer said...

Life is kind of like a wheel (bicycle wheel?). Nice roll down memory lane. I remember my receiving a bicycle from almost 50 years ago. I loved the freedom it supplied, too!

Hal Johnson said...

Debby, that was a gem. It made me smile and brought tears to my eyes at the same time.

Scotty said...

Ooooh, bike memories - I have a few of those too - this beauty was my first bike here in Australia and it was modified several times over a year or two. I welded extra long forks at the front to make it into a 'chopper' as well as having a smaller tyre at the front. It had those click-clack things you'd put in the spokes and a skull-and-crossbones hanging from the rear headrest...

:-)

baby~amore' said...

what a lovely story - I bet you made her smile too.